The American crocodile, also known by its taxonomic name Crocodylus Acutus, is a large reptile indigenous to the southern swamps of the United States, the Caribbean islands and as far south as southern Mexico and Colombia. It is one of the largest extant species of crocodile, as well as one of the only ones to thrive in saltwater habitats, including islands and cays in which no source of freshwater is available. It thrives most comfortably in brackish swamps where it has a wide array of food sources available.
Biological Characteristics Unique To The American Crocodile
This crocodile is more susceptible to cold temperatures than most others. Being a cold-blooded creature, it relies on warm external temperatures to maintain its body heat, and unusually severe winters can lead to the death of many individuals within an ecosystem. The American crocodile is a primary predator within its ecosystem and nearly any other creature that it encounters is potential prey, including insects and tiny mammals that are frequently consumed by baby crocodiles. The most common prey of this species, for most of its life, however, consists of the many varieties of fish endemic to the region.
Reproduction Habits Of The American Crocodile
American crocodiles tend to breed in the early winter or late autumn. Curiously, one of the most important factors in choosing a suitable mate is body size, rather than age. Large crocodiles will have a priority in choosing mates, even if they are considerably older than the other available males. After an extensive courting and mating ritual, the female crocodile will find a suitable nest where she will lay her eggs and defend the nest until hatching. Female crocodiles vigorously defend their nests; eggs are susceptible to predation by foxes, raccoons, skunks and other small mammals.
Conservation Status Of The American Crocodile
In the 1960’s and 70’s, overhunting and loss of habitat led to a conservation crisis for the American crocodile that led to a situation in which only a few hundred individuals were left alive in the world. The situation has since improved, with several thousand known individuals and the probability of many more in the wild. Crocodile hunting remains illegal in the United States and many other countries where the crocodile lives, which has led to the adoption of, “Vulnerable” status according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, although a new assessment will soon be necessary.